With the recent ATR-72 TransAsia Airways plane crash in Taiwan and the Asian airplane tragedies in the last couple of years, I thought it was important for me to weigh in on the question of whether Asians pilots can fly airplanes. Before I get started, I’m going to go on a huge limb here and say that this is a dumb stereotype that is related to the equally dumb stereotype that Asians can’t drive. (I address the Asians can’t drive stereotype in my 8Asians article: Do Asians Have Peripheral Vision?)
But without further ado, this is what I found when I Googled: Can Asians Fly?
Well, as expected there is a lot of “jokes” (and I use that term very lightly in this case) every time there is an airplane accident involving an Asian pilot. NPR’s Code Switch compiled a list of them after Asiana Airlines Flight 214 accident in San Francisco last year.
- “of course the Korean plane crashed. Asians can’t drive, what makes them think they can fly a plane”
- “Just watched a video of a plane crashing. … had to be a asian pilot [emojis of Asian dude and crying smiley faces]”
- “I’m wondering if the pilot of this plane that crashed from South Korea was Asian … they can’t drive anything! #NotAStereotype”
- “Dayum asians cant drive… nd now they cant fly???bf*ckin chinks! Open ur eyes mof*ckers!”
There are more on Public Shaming. I’m only going to put one up because I think you get the point.
But these are a year old. Are they still happening? I went onto Twitter and searched: Can Asians fly? I can’t say I was surprised to find a lot of tweets. Here was the first one that came up:
So the “best” part about this one is that he writes that he’s not a “lacist.” I admit, I had to look up that term. And according to Urban Dictionary it’s a racist term for Asian. You learn something new every day.
Reading all of the tweets makes me sad. Sad for humanity. Sad for myself. I hold out hope that some of them are joking. Especially when the Asian American folks tweet it.
But in the midst of my looking, I did find some people out there who thought the “jokes” were stupid. Here was one:
Thanks Eye Bacon for speaking up.
I don’t think I need to “prove” that the stereotype that Asians can’t fly an airplane is false, but just in case someone is on the fence, here’s the breakdown of airplane crashes by country that I found over on Statista.
And just in case you can’t read the chart, you have to go down nine countries before you get to the first Asian country, India.
Finally, the Economist puts all these recent air disasters into perspective:
The accident rate in the International Air Transport Association’s Asia-Pacific region was higher than in North America and Europe in 2013, the most recent year for which complete data are available. But as my colleague noted last month, we are still talking about vanishingly low chances of any given flyer being involved in a fatal accident. In short: some Asian airlines may be slightly less safe than other Asian airlines, or than North American or European airlines. But they are still incredibly safe. Here are some much better things to worry about: is the car you are driving safe? Are you doing all you can to avert heart disease? Because both of those things are much more likely to kill you than a plane crash—even on an Asian airline. Happy flying.
I’m not wasting anymore time on this question. But before I go, I want to share with you something I found while doing “research” for this article. Fair warning, it has nothing to do with the question at hand, but too awesome not to mention. There is a Facebook group for people who think (know?) Asians can fly — without airplanes/helicopters/etc. They have almost three thousand members. I’m proud to say that I am now one of them.
Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @ksakai1
The World Travel Concept Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net